A report on how to tackle the threat of rising underground acid mine water would be discussed by Cabinet on Wednesday, according to Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.
The report, compiled by a group of industry experts towards the end of 2010, sets out plans on how to stem rising acid effluent causing an
environmental disaster by February 2012 when the toxic water – with pH levels of between 2 and 3 – is expected to reach natural groundwater sources.
Speaking at a briefing by infrastructure cluster ministers on Tuesday, Molewa said the department has already received R218m to build a pump station in Boksburg on the East Rand, expected to be completed end-2012.
Scientists monitoring the rate at which the acid water is rising have warned that it will reach the critical environmental level of 150 metres below the south-western vertical shaft of the ERPM Mine near Boksburg within 12 months – with catastrophic consequences for the underground water in that area.
The toxic water, which is already flowing out above ground with disastrous effects on the West Rand, could within weeks also begin to emerge above ground from the Cinderella ventilation shaft on the edge of Boksburg’s central business district.
Molewa said that from now on, tackling an issue like accountability for acid mine water would rely strongly on Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s finalisation of an environmental tax.
This could include a special levy on companies to help fund the draining of the mine water.
The acid mine water below the four basins on which Carletonville, Randfontein, Krugersdorp, Johannesburg, Boksburg, Nigel and Springs are situated could also cause further sinkhole formation.